Harvard Welcomes Oprah Winfreeeeeey!

The media mogul is Harvard’s commencement speaker.

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Mayor Menino and Winfrey both received honorary degrees. Photo courtesy of the City of Boston

Update: Well Oprah didn’t say “You get a degree! And you get a degree!” but she did open with “Oh my goodness, I’m at Har-VAAAARD!” and joked that she’d hoped to hide free Master’s and PhD degrees under their chairs, so there were some classic Oprah moments.

And she was her typical self in other, more serious ways, too. Not for nothing did this woman build an empire on the strength of her ability to dispense wisdom and insight that just feels self-empowering (even to a non-Harvard senior watching her on a livestream…) The first half of her speech focused on failure, framed around the initial stumbles her OWN network took when it first launched:

Learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are … The challenge of life I have found is to build a resume that doesn’t simply tell a story about what you want to be but a story about who you want to be. It’s a resume that doesn’t just tell a story about what you want to accomplish, but why. A story that’s not just a collection of titles and positions but a story that’s really about your purpose. Because when you inevitably stumble and find yourself stuck in a hole that is the story that will get you out. What is your true calling, what is your dharma, what is your purpose.

Later, she encouraged them to cut through divisive national debates by recognizing that people are constantly seeking approval and shouldn’t be demonized when they disagree. “Was that okay?” she says nearly every guest on her show, from George Bush to Beyonce, asked her as soon as they stopped taping. That refrain provided her a final line as she drew her speech to a close. “Was that okay?” she asked through a smile. A standing ovation suggested that it was.

Earlier: “You get a degree. And you get a degree! And you get a degree!” speaker Oprah Winfrey is expected to tell Harvard seniors as she tosses diplomas like frisbees out over the audience at Thursday’s Harvard Commencement.

Okay, so she probably won’t do that, but it would be awesome. Nor will she announce the name of each degree recipient in her trademark introduction voice. (“Graduating magna cum laude with honors in the history concentration … it’s Eric Ran-DALLLLLLL.” That would be awesome, too, for perhaps the first 20 names … after which it would be horrible.)

Boston Mayor Tom Menino was also on the scene to receive an honorary degree this morning, a big deal for the guy who regretted his decision to drop out of night school. He and Oprah look to have become fast friends.

Whatever it is Oprah does tell graduates, it’ll probably be something a little more stately, along the lines of her advice to the graduates of Spelman College, where she spoke last year:

You must have some vision for your life. Even if you don’t know the plan, you have to have a direction in which you choose to go. What I learned is that that’s a great metaphor for life. You want to be in the driver’s seat of your own life because if you are not, life will drive you.you can get in on the action by watching the live stream below.

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